After officially beating out J.P. Losman and starting for two seasons, Trent Edwards has the experience to take the next step. A third-round pick in 2007, many saw him as a solid backup to J.P. Losman. Both were California born and bred. But Edwards won. Last season, he led Buffalo to a 4-0 record to start the season, but a crushing blindside sack by Cardinals' safety Adrian Wilson in week five left him with a concussion.
Edwards didn't play at the same caliber after that but with 2,699 passing yards, 11 touchdowns and 10 picks, he did improve from '07. With T.O. bringing the circus to town and a plethora of offensive weapons at his disposal, this is the make-or-break season for Edwards. If he succeeds, he'll become the unquestioned future of the franchise. If he fails...probably another three years of rebuilding are in store.
However, the weapons at Edwards' disposal and his experience wins him this battle.
The Edge: Buffalo
They say two is company and three's a crowd. Three is a good number. The Holy Trinity. Three Amigos. Three Musketeers. Three Buffalo backs? Maybe. With Marshawn Lynch, Fred Jackson and Dominic Rhodes, the Bills' boast one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL.
Each has a running style that is unique yet cohesive.
Lynch's game certainly reflects his "Beast Mode" moniker. With the single drop of a shoulder pad, he is punishing, exciting, explosive, destructive and at times, unstoppable. He finds the seam between a defensive end and linebacker and brings the pain.
Although his three-game suspension to start the year will hurt the Bills, it will leave him fresher in the long run when the chilly Buffalo cold sets in.
Fred Jackson, on the other hand, finds the seam and slips through it like a ghost. Last season, he seized every opportunity he got as the main back. Further, as a receiver, he caught 37 balls for 317 yards. Jackson can dodge, duck, dip, dive, and...dodge. His ability to run and catch could give screaming headaches to opposing defensive coordinators.
And, oh yeah, there's Dominic Rho-o-o-o-o-o-odes. With a last name that fits perfectly into a 1980s National Lampoon's song, Buffalo's new back will come in handy. Through seven seasons, Rhodes has amassed 3,114 rushing yards on 777 attempts with 26 scores.
Dominic Rhodes has shown nice hands at camp.
The long-time Indianapolis Colt brings experience and a backup presence to Buffalo - my guess is he's still got some juice left in the legs. Word from training camp is that he's been the best receiving back. There's no such thing as having too many weapons.
Thomas Jones had a comeback season of sorts in 2008 with the Jets. With New York going a wretched 4-12 in 2007 and Jones entering his ninth season, he was aware of the facts. Perform, and stay. Sit back, and give up. With the acquisition of Brett Favre in 2008, Jones saw a revival. His numbers spiked and he had his best year as a pro, running for 1,132 yards with 13 scores.
With two years left on his four-year, $20 million dollar contract and a dinosaur body for a running back, Jones needs to keep performing to keep the No. 1 spot.
Behind the veteran Jones, Leon Washington has apprenticed and learned the trade well. His numbers have steadily increased in three seasons in New York, and with a 4.9 yards per carry average, Washington could contest Jones for the No. 1 spot soon. His explosiveness has always been clear as arguably the league's best return man.
Don't be surprised if some competition emerges out of Cortland State in the next few weeks. With Washington and rookie Shonn Greene, who the team gushed over after the draft, the Jets could be ready to push Jones out the door. We'll see.
As good of a tandem as Jones and Washington are, this edge goes to Buffalo. No matter how you stack it, three proven backs are better than two. Buffalo's depth is the best in the AFC East.
The Edge: Buffalo
T.O. is a diva. He's a whiner. He tears locker rooms apart and pulls quarterbacks down. But he does produce. Love him or hate him, T.O. remains an elite receiver. He's second all time on the receiver list behind the greatest ever, Jerry Rice. Now, optimistically speaking, Owens won't throw Edwards under the bus.
With Lee Evans on the other side, Edwards' stats should skyrocket higher than mid-summer gas prices. Defenses will be forced to double-team one of them, leaving the other wide open.
If a defense gets aggressive and doubles both, that'll open up Josh Reed's world. Reed had a career high in yards last season (597).
Cotchery's numbers dipped slightly last year when he racked up 858 yards on 71 receptions, finding the red zone five times. As a veteran presence at wide receiver, he needs to create solid chemistry with Sanchez.
Beyond this duo, the Jets hope speed-demon David Clowney finally breaks down. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds but has yet to deliver consistently in the pros.
Edwards will have his hands full with Owens, but the depth Buffalo has at wide receiver is too much for New York.
The Edge: Buffalo
The majority of the media covering the Jason Peters trade lambasted the team for losing such a coveted asset. There is some truth to the fact. Peters is athletic on the edge, for sure. But he allowed (this number can be debated) an estimated 11.5 sacks in 2008.
The Jets boast a dominant offensive line.
Now that Peters is gone, Buffalo's offensive line is in transition. Young, but promising. With the majority of the players getting shifted to another spot, it is still difficult to see who will land where. Langston Walker will shift from right tackle to left. Free agent Geoff Hangartner replaces Melvin Fowler at center.
Meanwhile, the Jets' front five all started together in 2008. Chemistry is not an issue in New York. Alan Faneca is still going strong after 11 long seasons and has Super Bowl experience. Brandon Moore and Damien Woody are both veterans.
Guard D'Brickashaw Ferguson and center Nick Mangold, both former first round draft picks, are back. Ferguson hasn't been as dominant as the team would expect a fourth overall pick to be, but he's solid nonetheless.
Until either of Buffalo's lines mesh properly, New York will control the trenches.
The Edge: New York
Spencer Timkey is an analyst for BuffaloFootballReport.com and has spent this summer working for WGR550 Radio. Contact him at TIMKEYSM@sbu.edu.
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